Michael Sani

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Michael Sani was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Low youth engagement in the democratic process has been a consistent problem across Europe for fifty years. Michael Sani aims to make history, by empowering a generation of young people to realize and execute the power of their votes and voices, and by ultimately holding elected decision-makers to account for issues that matter to young people. To reach this aim, Michael founded Bite the Ballot in 2010 to ignite a self-propelling youth movement; for the first time he is putting the challenge of making young people participate in democracy into the hands of young people themselves. Bite the Ballot’s young ambassadors create wake-up call experiences for their peers, leading into lifelong political engagement. By working through young people for young people and by bringing politics to where young people are, Bite the Ballot reaches those deemed to be furthest away from politics and has already succeeded in getting 50,000 young people registered to vote in one day.

Whereas most efforts done by charities, local authorities or politicians to get young people excited about politics either do not resonate with them or target those who are already interested, Bite the Ballot communicates political issues through a range of new and unexpected communication channels. To reach young people where they are, Bite the Ballot works on two levels: a grassroots peer-to-peer network bringing politics to life on the ground, and a network of digital media channels keeping up the momentum and multiplying outreach. Michael has established a network of young Community Engagement Officers or CEOs who are responsible for mobilizing young people in their communities and who lobby local authorities and electoral commissions to ease up voter registration opportunities. To allow CEOs to create an impactful experience for the young people they engage with, Michael has developed a series of interactive educational games that can be streamed anywhere from classrooms to youth clubs. The games inspire young people to discuss issues, not politics and reveal both the power everyone holds in their vote as well as how staying away from the ballot box equals remaining unheard. Already Bite the Ballot games and resources are being distributed by educational institutions as best practice to over 6,000 secondary schools in the UK.

To leverage peer-to-peer engagement Michael has created a web of partnerships with social media outlets such as Twitter and YouTube, who keep the conversations going and offer to young people a new range of platforms to form and articulate their opinions. Finally, Michael is working to tear down the barriers that hinder such involvement on a practical level, lobbying the government to make registration and voting easier, more accessible and truly open to everyone. By activating young changemakers while changing the practicalities of our democratic system, Michael aims to mobilize a critical mass of young voters who will tip the democratic system as we know it.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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